Calaveras y Rosas: Creating from the Heart

Ángela Miranda-Hernández lives in a home that looks like her art. Bold colors on the wall, pieces of art collected from Mexico hanging on them, a wide open dining room welcoming on a cold day.

Up a few stairs, her small bedroom studio has everything she needs to create her jewelry and itself is a pure blue, matching the aesthetic that is AngMir-Hecho con Cariño.

The room is decorated with earrings that she’s made, art that she has collected and a large desk where she works, directly in front of a window where the sunlight shines in, making her happy.

Hernández creates work that she feels compelled to create. Her pieces of jewelry reflect her like a painting reflects its painter. The pieces she works on are all somewhat of a limited edition, especially because she can get tired of creating the same thing over and over.

“You can have one design that people like, and I’m glad and I think I’m going to make so many. But after a while, I don’t want to make it anymore,” she said. “My mind is always turning and I’m not a factory, I don’t want to keep pumping out this one thing that everyone is into right now…That’s for companies to be producing. I’m not someone who mass produces things.”

Although she started learning to craft when she was nine years old, taught by her grandmother, she’s only been selling her own creations since 2013.

Growing up, Hernández thought that it was normal to sew, crochet and craft. She grew up watching her grandmother make large cobijas, blankets, and her mother make crafts she sold for extra income. When she started doing her own crafting, people were amazed and she was surprised that they had never done it before. “You mean, you don’t do this?” she asked.

When Hernández had a job in banking, she started making earrings for herself. When she wore them to work, she caught the attention of friends and coworkers, asking how she made them.

“I was like, ‘I’ll make you some’,” she said, “and then I started gifting them. I was gifting so much that people said, ‘You know you should start selling it because you need to buy more materials.'”

It became more apparent that selling was an option when she went to her first Pilsen Open Studios event. The two-day excursion through the local artists’ studios and storefront-turn-galleries gave Hernández the opportunity to meet Diana Solis, an artist who was working as a full time creative and selling her pieces.

“Her art is totally different from what I do, of course. But it was like, she makes this and she makes a connection and she sells it, too,” she realized.

Shortly after, she met Teresa Magaña at the Pilsen Community Market. In awe of her stunning creations and the fact the she, too, was selling her work, Hernández decided to sell her jewelry.

Since Hernández and her family live in the suburb of Burbank, that’s where she started selling her crafts.

“When I first started doing markets, I started doing church markets. I would do it out here in the suburbs and I was the only Latina/Mexicana/Chicana that was out here selling what I felt,” she explained. “It stood out. It popped out. Sometimes people wouldn’t stop at the table. No mas lo miraban and they would walk by and go to the lady who sells the goose with the dresses and the outfits. And I [asked myself], why am I doing this?”

Feeling discouraged, Hernández decided to try and sell her work in Pilsen. To her pleasant surprise, she felt the complete opposite of what she felt in Burbank.

“I felt so welcomed there [in Pilsen]. The people liked [my art] and I felt like I could make more stuff and create more,” she explained. “People were like, ‘I could resonate with this’; ‘We don’t see this,’ ‘We haven’t seen this around.'”

Hernández creates her pieces based what she feels represents her. Knowing that her work was selling at all was another form of acceptance as a new vendor in the community.

“I felt really good because I started making the style of jewelry that I make because I didn’t see anything in stores available that represented me,” she explained. “You go to the jewelry store and you see a bunch of [mass produced products that everyone has] and I wanted to be different because I needed to represent myself showing this is me, this is what I like.”

As a Pilsen native and graduate from Benito Juarez Community Academy, being accepted in the neighborhood meant a lot to Hernández.

“I think it’s nice because growing up in Pilsen– that’s your hometown, that’s your life, your childhood and then to be welcomed back like that, I felt [accepted]. Even though I moved out, I felt embraced,” she explained.

The artwork she created not only represented her, nor did it only make connections because of culture, but during a period in Hernández’s life, her art meant much more and connected to mothers on a much deeper level. In 2013 Hernández had a miscarriage that put her into a deep depression.

“A Mother’s Love,” image courtesy of AngMir – Hecho con Cariño

“My husband was really supportive but he didn’t know how to help me. I think that the only way to help me was to let me get out of it. Even though you know you don’t want to be in that situation, you can’t snap your fingers [to get] out,” she said.

It was then that she started creating art that reflected her emotions and feelings, taking her creations to another therapeutic level. She created a mixed media piece for an exhibition she was a part of titled “A Mother’s Love.” She then created another piece of a mother holding her womb and her heart ripping out of her chest because she was in the process of losing her baby. Some might see this as taboo, but for Hernández, it was proof that her art could connect with many mothers who had endured the same pain that she had.

“I would explain the pieces to people who would ask me about it and there were so many people that connected to it,” she said. “When I went through it, I felt alone because who was I going to talk to about it? No one says anything. It’s like, it’s a bad thing, like you did something wrong. You feel guilty. And I think that’s what triggers the depression because there are things that you can’t explain.”

The following year, Hernández lost her job at the bank. It was then that she decided to take the leap and create her pieces full time.

“Untitled,” image courtesy of AngMir – Hecho con Cariño

“I lost my job from Corporate America and I thought, you know what, I might as well dedicate my time to this then. And that’s when I became full time, making my jewelry, my art,” she said.

Since taking on her entrepreneurial journey, her husband Sergio and five children have been extremely supportive of Hernández.

“[My husband] would go to events with me and help me set up. Reach out to people. He shares my stuff. He’s supportive in many ways. Financially, emotionally, everything,” she explained.

Now, after years of experience behind her, Hernández goes with her creative flow, developing new pieces of jewelry and crafts that resonate with her style, likes and dislikes. She’s been successful thus far in creating culturally relevant pieces that speak to her community of consumers.

Catch Hernández during festival season in Chicago around town. For more information on her work and where you can find her selling her unique pieces, visit her Facebook page or find her on Instagram.

Written by Christina Elizabeth Rodriguez-Estrada

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